The 8th Annual Dinner-Dance
Friday May 31, 2013
Gargiulo’s restaurant (Coney Island)
or for more information call,
Thanks to James McCarthy for this image…
The best thing about basketball is that you don’t need other people to play.
Just you, a basketball and the hoop.
When I found myself alone in the boys schoolyard at Holy Name I would shoot jump shot after jump shot. I’d shoot from all over the court and chase down the rebound.
The baskets in the schoolyard didn’t have nets on the steel rims so every time I made a jumper from the outside the ball would roll away from the court and I’d have to chase it down. Sometimes I walked after the ball, other times I jogged. The coaches at Holy Name taught us to hustle after our missed shots.
“Follow your shot,” we often heard. I heard it so much I could hear it in my sleep.
The ball went straight through the net less rim.
I was a pretty good outside shooter because I had practiced often.
My form was perfect. Right hand behind the ball, left hand as the guide hand. Knees bent, with a nice high arc.
At Holy Name we had the best coaches you could ask for; they taught us the fundamentals at an early age. It was all about repetitions when it came to shooting the ball.
When I was alone in the yard I would dribble at every single basket attempting to make a layup. The rims in the schoolyard had half-moon shaped backboards connected to a long steel pole coming out of the pavement. This made shooting a bank shot difficult. The banker wasn’t one of my favorite shots so I never used it in a game; I always liked to swish everything even though we didn’t have nets. The pole was planted in the ground right in the middle of the lane. Dribbling around the pole to escape your defender was a strategy many players used to score. It was used as a “pick.”
Sometimes I would make believe I was at Madison Square Garden; 33rd and 8th. Stands packed to the rafters. You could hear them from the blue seats! The game was televised on channel nine with Marv Albert and Cal Ramsey on the call.
Finamore brings the ball up the court, ten seconds remaining on the clock. Phil Chenier picks him up at the circle, guarding him closely. 9, 8,7, 6…Finamore backs in on the left-wing, he peeks up at the clock. 4,3,2…
Finamore spins to the baseline and fires…YEEEEEEESSSSS!
Long as I remember
The rain been comin’ down.
Clouds of myst’ry pourin’
Confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages
Tried to find the sun;
And I wonder, still I wonder,
Who’ll stop the rain.
Powerful lyrics from one of my favorite songs of all-time…
I heard this song many times as a kid; My mom had a cool collection of Creedence Clearwater Revival. 45’s, albums, and eight tracks. (If you’re under 40, you have no idea)
I heard “Who’ll Stop the Rain” in Timboo’s, on the Parkside, in someone’s basement…shit I think I even heard it in McBears and the Windsor Pub?
It wasn’t until this morning that I pulled up the lyrics on the internet. Remember when you had to listen to a song a million times to learn the lyrics? I’d play it over and over until I got the words right. Down at the record shop on 5th avenue they sold textbook-sized books with lyrics in them. I once bought a Rolling Stones book to learn all of Mick’s jams. (See, I did actually open a text-book as a teen).
I always loved the sound of the music from this song; loved the flow. After finally reading the lyrics, I have a new perspective.
I miss rock and roll from the 70’s.
I lived on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Windsor Place; Third floor over Bob’s Hardware Store.
When my mother wanted me to go to the store she would put money in a napkin, fold it up and toss it out the window to me.
“Run to Associated and get me milk,” she would say.
I’d look up, observe her hanging out the window and before she would toss the crumbled up napkin down to me she would look around first.
“Just throw it, come on!” I screamed back up at her, clearly agitated at her delay.
The napkin would free-fall with the money into my hands. I would cup my mitts like Willie Mays in centerfield.
Sometimes there would be just bills inside, sometimes coins and sometimes both.
Regardless, I hated going to the store for mom but loved trying to catch the napkin.
I’m thinking way ahead here…
I have been going 125 miles an hour with my writing. I’m determined to get it done! (By the way, if anyone knows how to contact Pete Hamill, let me know. I want to thank him for “A Drinking Life.” It’s a truly remarkable book)
The cover of my book will be key. It needs to be right.
Been going over many ideas right now. So many thoughts go through my head when thinking of what it could look like.
I found this possibility in the back of an old basketball magazine. At the time (1978) it was probably my inspiration to ditch school.
(Double click to enlarge)
As we sit back and watch both New York professional basketball teams in the NBA playoffs (Knicks-Celtics and Nets-Bulls) for some strange reason I thought back to the 1975-76 season.
The Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets that year 4-2 to win the ABA championship, their second ring in the past three years. The Nuggets, coached by Larry Brown had the best record in the league and were led by David Thompson, Dan Issel and Bobby Jones. But Julius Erving was too much for them in the finals; Doc averaged 37.7 PPG in the finals. Over in the NBA, the Celtics had captured the title beating the Phoenix Suns 4-2. It was the Celtics 13th ring.
75-76 was the ABA’s last season.
Their “swan song.”
The red white and ball was no more.
Four teams (Nets, Pacers, Nuggets and Spurs) joined the NBA on June 17th, 1976.
Or like my friend Glenn Thomas likes to say, “Suspended operations.”
There was talk of a possible game between the Nets and Celtics to determine the real champion.
No such luck, it never happened.
I would have loved to been in the schoolyard hanging out with guys like John Corrar and Tom Brady talking about who would win? The banter would have been memorable like most conversations/arguments in the yard.
While researching for this entry, I found this piece of information from http://www.remembertheaba.com/abastatistics/abanbaexhibitions.html
After the 1974-75 regular season, the ABA Champion Kentucky Colonels formally challenged the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors to a “World Series of Basketball,” with the winner to take a $1 Million purse (to come from anticipated TV revenues). The NBA and the Warriors refused the challenge. Again, after the 1975-76 season, the ABA Champion New York Nets offered to play the NBA Champion Boston Celtics in a winner-take-all game, with the proceeds going to benefit the 1976 United States Olympic team. Predictably, the Celtics declined to participate.
In the boys schoolyard there was always compelling basketball talk. I recall guys arguing over “who was better?”
We had Celtics fans, Nets fans and Knicks fans in the neighborhood. My guy Jack Kelly from 7th avenue is one of the biggest Celtics fans around so I’m sure after he reads this entry, he’ll have something to say about the meeting that never took place. My good friend Kevin Molloy was a Celtics fan too. It was not hard to root for them. They played the game the right way.
The Celtics were fundamentally sound with guys like Dave Cowens, Paul Silas and John Havlicek up front for the Celtics would be a load for the Nets. Hondo was 36 at the time and nursing a sore foot.
The Nets, coached by Kevin Loughery played a run and gun style led by the “Big 3” in Julius Erving, Brian Taylor and John Williamson. People tend to forget that Larry Kenon and Billy Paultz were NOT on this Nets team. They were traded the year before in two transactions to the San Antonio Spurs involving Swen Nater, Chuck Terry, Kim Hughes, and Rich Jones. Mike Gale also left New York for San Antonio.
Doc was incredible. He was the leading scorer that year and had captured his third straight league MVP.
When the merger took place Red Auerbach said that we’re going to see one of the greatest forwards to ever play this game. He was talking about Julie.
Debates were common, especially when it came to sports. Didn’t matter where you were. In the yard, on the corner or in Farrell’s.
The Nuggets beat the Celtics in an exhibition game back in October. Nets beat the Nuggets in the finals so you never know.
The backcourt of Jo-Jo White and Charlie Scott vs Taylor and Williamson would have been sweet. Boston had three players (Cowens, Hondo and Silas) make 1st team all-defense.
Overall for the ABA, their players and teams did well in the NBA after the merger.
“The ABA was like the wild west, and Julius Erving, George Gervin, James Silas and all the other ABA stars were gunfighters. They are men of legend known to millions, but whose actual deeds were seen by few,” Bob Costas said in Terry Pluto’s fantastic book about the ABA.
The following season after the merger, the Portland Trailblazers won the NBA championship (thanks to Maurice Lucas). Their opponent in the finals was the 76ers (thanks to Doc), the Nuggets won the Midwest and the Spurs led the league in scoring. The Nets on the other hand were a mess. They had the worst record in the league at 22-60 but they did do something to make the NBA history books. In February they became the first NBA team ever to have an all-left-handed lineup: Tim Bassett, Al Skinner, Bubbles Hawkins, Dave Wohl and Kim Hughes.
That Nets-Celtics in 1976 championship game would have been special.
So, who wins, Nets or Celtics?
This morning while on my third cup of coffee, I have a confession to make. I may be the worst at making decisions (and sticking to them). By the way, speaking of confession, were you scared shit like me when you first stepped into the confessional booth as a kid?
Don’t get me wrong, I have improved this part of my life (I’m a high school basketball coach, always making decisions).
Here’s the deal, oatmeal.
Many of you know that I have been working on writing a book. The premise of the book is my experience growing up in the neighborhood. My teen years to be exact. The toughest times of my life to be honest.
Here’s my problem; at times I write it as a memoir (Non-Fiction). At other times I feel the need to switch to the novel format (Fiction).
You’re probably sitting there saying to yourself, “WHAT?”
Let me explain. When I write it as a memoir, I feel I might embarrass some people (my daughter and wife mainly). It gets a bit uneasy putting my experience down on paper. Or, I’m not famous, who wants to read about my life. Or, I can just see someone taking me to court or even kicking my ass at my first book signing at Farrell’s.
When I write it as a novel, it just doesn’t feel right. Changing names, places, etc. Making stuff up, embellishing. You know what I mean, right? You didn’t think ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was true did you?
But fear not.
Last night I read some uplifting, inspirational material from a few published authors; I also came across a great quote by John Steinbeck: “A good writer always works at the impossible.”
From this moment on, I’m going with the MEMOIR!
It will cover my life from the ages of 13 to 18.
Much of the content is down on paper. Now I need to go through it and polish it up a bit.
Sorry for the delay.
I’m also going to do something I’m not used to doing. I’m going to set a deadline for the final manuscript. I’m setting a goal. As of today, Saturday April 20, I’ll write the memoir and have it completed by January 1st, 2014.
Seven months to get it done.
Now let me run, I need to get to work!
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